Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had declared that the government seeks to double farmer incomes by 2022.There is little doubt that this is an ambitious objective and requires a multi-pronged strategy by the government.
In this article, we shall focus on various initiatives taken by the Modi government for improving agricultural productivity and boosting agricultural growth in the country.
Specifically, we shall be analysing the progress of the Pradhan Mantri Fasal BimaYojana, Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana and the Soil Health Card Scheme and National agriculture market.
The first two years of the NDA government saw consecutive droughts which adversely affected farm incomes and the rural economy. In early 2015, problems of the farmers had been aggravated by multiple days of hailstorms which destroyed standing crop ready for harvest.
As Indian agriculture continues to remain highly dependent on Monsoon, these 'natural shocks' have severe consequences for farmers. The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) was introduced for lowering the risk exposure of farmers and providing them income security.
Progress on PMFBY
Crop year 2016-17 was the first full crop year of the PMFBY which was rolled out before Kharif 2016. One of the principal barometers for assessing the efficacy of the programme is increase in crop insurance coverage. We find that after the introduction of PMFBY, the total cropped area insured has increased from 23% to 30%.
This is a significant increase in a span of one year and it may be attributed largely to the introduction of PMFBY. Further, the government intends to increase coverage by 10 percentage points every year for the next two years and achieve 50% coverage by 2019.
The government seems to have backed its intent with action by substantially increasing fiscal allocation for the PMFBY. The amount allocated has been increased from Rs. 5500 crores to more than Rs. 13000 crores.
Under the PMFBY, 35.5 million farmers were insured as compared to just 12.1 million in Kharif 2013, and 25.4 million in Kharif2015 under the National Agriculture Insurance Scheme and Modified NAIS combined. Also, the sum insured increased substantially from Rs 60,773 crores in Kharif 2015, and now to Rs 1,08,055 crores under the PMFBY.
Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana
The high dependence on Monsoon and natural rainfall is one of the deepest problems of Indian agriculture. It has been estimated that more than half of the country's agricultural land is rainfed and requires assured irrigation.
In 2015, the government revamped the Accelerated IrrigationBenefits Programme (AIBP) and started a flagship programme - Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY). Through this scheme, the government aims to replicate the success of the GrameenSadakYojanain providing assured irrigation across the country.
How has been the progress of PMKSY?
Under the scheme, 99 priority irrigation projects have been identified. Out of these, 21 projects, are likely to be completed by June 2017. One of the aims of the programme is to expand use of micro-irrigation across the country. Using drip irrigation and sprinklers on farms augments water efficiency and reduces the demand for water.
We find that there has been a substantial increase in the coverage of micro irrigation after the launch of PMSKY. Between 2005-06 and 2016-17, 60.83 Hectares of agricultural land was brought under micro irrigation. While 42.58 Hectares were added in the first 9 years at an annual average of 4.73 Hectares, 18.25 hectares were added in the last three years at an annual average of more than 6 hectares.
Soil Health Card Scheme
With land becoming a scarce resource, there is an urgent need for improving land productivity. The government needs to provide adequate information to farmers about appropriate farming techniques and steps for increasing the productivity of their land. The government has been providing farmers with Soil Health Card scheme for apprising them about the condition of their farmland.
Farmers are expected to choose the crop and use of fertilizers etc. based on this information. By March 2012, more than 5 crore farmers had soil health cards across the country after independent initiatives byvarious state governments supported by the centre. In 2015, Modi government set a target of providing 14 crore Soil Health cards within 3 years.
The government would not only issue a card to farmers; but also ensure that there is a reassessment of land and reissue of cards every three years. Unlike the general recommendations provided earlier, farmers are now given crop-wise fertilizer recommendations.
Testing of Soil Samples
In the last two years, the government has made steady progress on testing of soil samples. Against the target of testing 2.53 crore soil samples, 2.3 crore samples have already been tested. But, progress seems to be slightly slow on printing and issue of cards.
As of now, 7.11 crore cards have been issued up till date, only around half of the target with one year to go. Concentrated efforts must be made by the government for ensuring that the target is met on schedule.
National Agriculture Market (eNam)
Currently farmers in India are marred with lack of technological interventions and hence are highly depended on information provided to them through local APMCs. This ultimately leads to issues such as improper real time price discovery, ill informed buyers and sellers on produce quality, lack of information on place of availability of a particular commodity etc.
Launched in April 2016, the idea of NAM stemmed out from the need of providing a nationwide market to the farmers. Primary objective of NAM has been to connect the pre existing APMC mandis and ensure a larger nationwide unified reach.
Use of Neem Coated Urea
Another small but critical step by the government for increasing efficiency in the agriculture sector is the use of Neem-coated Urea. Gradually, the government has made 100 percent Neem coating mandatory for domestic Urea producers. Neem coating increases the nutrient efficiency. It also reduces transfer of urea for non-agricultural purposes.
Modi Government has made numerous efforts for increasing farmer incomes and providing risk cover to them. The success of these programmes in eliminating the targeted problems depends on their implementation and not merely enrolment. For instance, a crop insurance scheme can only be deemed successful if the claim settlement time is reduced and the process is made smoother for the beneficiary.
Apart from issuing soil health cards, the government must conduct follow up surveys or appraisals, for monitoring whether the information imparted did lead to any change in farming techniques. Apart from this the government should also focus on making farmer incomes secure from volatile price changes in the market.
(Nitin Mehta is Managing Partner, Ranniti Consulting and Research. Pranav Gupta is an independent researcher)